Saturday, September 30, 2006

Robotech film takes award

As I had a small hand in the revival of Robotech, and receive a "thanks to" credit in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, I was delighted to see that the film has won an award.

GoH in L.A. in 2007

I'm thrilled to announce that I will be Guest of Honor at Loscon 32 in Los Angeles, November 23-25, 2007 (next year); Loscon is the annual convention of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. The theme of the con next year will be paleontology and archeology in science fiction -- I can't wait!

This is my fourth GoH gig lined up so far for 2007; God, I love this job! I'll be a Guest of Honor at:

Chattacon 32
Chattanooga, Tennessee
January 26-28, 2007

Ravencon 2007
Richmond, Virginia
April 20-22, 2007

Oasis 20

Orlando, Florida
May 25-27, 2007

Loscon 34

Los Angeles, California
November 23-25, 2007

V-Con programming schedule

Hi, Folks. Next week, I'm off to VCon 31, the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention, in British Columbia, being held October 6-8. Here's my programming schedule:

Saturday 3:00 PM
Rob Sawyer interviews Fan Guest of Honour Randy McCharles
Executive Boardroom 1 hour

Saturday 5:00 PM Panel: How Possible Is Time Travel?
Boardroom A 1 hour

Sunday 11:00 AM
Reading from Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
Boardroom B 1 hour

Sunday 1:00 PM Panel: Where is Everybody? The SETI Conundrum
Executive Boardroom 1 hour

Sunday 2:00 PM Panel: Building Your World from the Microbiological Level Up
Executive Boardroom 1 hour

Writer in Residence

I've just finished my first appointment with a patron at the Kitchener Public Library, in Ontario, where I'm the 10th annual Edna Staebler Writer in Residence until the end of November. The appointment went well, and the patron seemed very pleased. But since we both arrived early, I've got some free time before my next appointment. The library has free WiFi throughout -- yay! -- and I've got my trusty Dell laptop with me.

I'm doing a number of public events at the library, in addition to meeting with patrons to go over their manuscripts. You can read about the public events here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Chicago Manual of Style online and CD-ROM

For decades, The Chicago Manual of Style has been the arbiter of how text is presented on the published page. Finally, there's an online version (by subscription -- US$25 a year if you sign up before the end of the month, US$30 a year after that) and a CD-ROM version, which, I'll note, is much cheaper from (in Canada) than it is from, for some reason.

Anyway, some writers are indifferent to the sorts of niceties CMS deals with, but I find them endlessly fascinating (which is one of the reasons I put together Notes for the Copyeditor for my novels).

You can get a free trial of the new CMS Online here, and searching on "Chicago Manual of Style CD-ROM" will bring you to the and listings for it.

On serials

My new novel Rollback is currently being serialized in Analog. By coincidence, today I ran across this transcript of an online chat I participated in back in 2003 about serialized novels, conducted by Gardner Dozois; also participating are my buddies Allen Steele and Rajnar Vajra. It still makes good reading.

Science fiction and astronomy

Exploring strange new worlds happens as often at a writer's keyboard as it does at an astronomer's eyepiece. Join us for a discussion of astronomy in science fiction.

Author Robert J. Sawyer discusses how astronomy and science fiction influence each other Wednesday, October 4, 2006, at 7:30 p.m. (Free). Ontario Science Centre, 770 Don Mills Rd., Toronto, in the Imperial Oil Auditorium. Free admission & parking after 6:30 p.m. Presented by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Back from Banff

From Sunday, September 17, until Saturday, September 23, 2006, I was teaching science fiction and fantasy writing at the Banff Centre, in Banff, Alberta, as one of four streams in the "Writing with Style" program there. As always, I had a truly fabulous time -- Banff is gorgeous (a ski-resort town inside a national park in the Rocky Mountains), and the Banff Centre is an amazing place, a unique and varied facility devoted to arts education.

I had eight students this year, and they were a fabulous and diverse bunch, ranging from 18 years old to 60-something -- and one of them came all the way from Costa Rica. My students were:

Eileen Bell
Brendan Fowlston
Bev Geddes
Tyler Harding
Jordan Hemsley
Randy McCharles
Ryan McFadden
Kirstin Morrell

Note those names: I expect you to see them all in print.

(Randy, by the way, is the chair of the 2008 World Fantasy Convention in Calgary, and now holds the record for attending the most workshops I've run -- this one was his third. Kirstin is the managing editor of Red Deer Press, the company that publishes my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. They're both members of IFWA, the Calgary writers' group.)

We did roundtable critiquing sessions in the mornings, and the quality of the submitted work was extremely high. The students seemed to get a lot out of the critiques; indeed, I was deeply moved by how effusive some of them were with their praise ("life changing" was a term I heard more than once). In the afternoons, I had private sessions with students, and in the evenings we had student and faculty readings -- plus one night out at a terrific pub in Banff. I got a lovely tour of the virtual-reality studio at the Banff Centre on Friday, and the faculty all snuck off to the world-famous Banff Springs Hotel on Saturday for drinks.

I adore my time at Banff: the students are always fabulous, the all-you-can eat buffets are amazing, the mountain venue is invigorating and filled with wildlife, and the accommodations -- newly refurbished to modern hotel standards -- are extremely comfortable. Whenever I do run a session at Banff, it's one of the absolute highlights of my year.

I've set up a newsgroup for this year's Banff students (and I did the same thing for last year's crop), and they're planning to continue workshopping online, which delights me.

Concurrent with my SF/F section were sessions on travel writing, children's writing, and memoir writing. The children's section was run by Tim Wynne-Jones. As we both said, it was astonishing that we'd never met before -- he's cofounder of the Crime Writers of Canada, and I'm a member; he's won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award and I've won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award; we've both won Arthur Ellis Awards; and we're both on pretty much the same circuit of Canadian writing conferences. We hit it off fabulously; getting to know Tim was one of the highlights of the trip.

This was my fifth time teaching at Banff (my first was in 2000 -- and one of my students then was Caterina Fake, who went on to found the photo-sharing site Flikr). But I won't be back next year, sad to say. I can't really complain; I was the only instructor to return from last year's fall Writing with Style (there's also a spring session). Still, my students were very upset to hear that I won't be back next year; several of them had expressed interest in coming back for another year. (Next year, "Nature Writing" is being offered in place of my SF/F section.)

I also won't be teaching a summer workshop at the University of Toronto next year. U of T ask me back, but they want to put 12 students in a class, and I think that's too many (Banff caps classes at eight), plus my summer for next year is already shaping up as being quite busy. So, if I do run another writing workshop, it won't be until 2008 at the earliest. If you'd like to be on the mailing list for notification of my workshops, drop me a note at

Last year, I left Banff on the Saturday afternoon, going down to Calgary and flying the 2,500 kilometers back to Toronto for the Word on the Street open-air book festival, which is held every year on the last Sunday of April; a bunch of SF writers take a couple of tables each year and sell our wares.

This year, I decided to stay for the final Saturday night party at Banff, and headed down to Calgary on Sunday morning -- and went to the Calgary version of Word on the Street. But it was tiny compared to the Toronto one, with just a handful of tables and only a few hundred people on site at any one time (the Toronto version attracts 100,000 people over the course of the day).

I did enjoy brief readings by Susan Forest, Marie Jakober, J. Brian Clarke, and saw Brian Hades and his wife Anita; Brian runs Calgary's Edge Press, which is Canada's largest SF/F publisher. Still, I missed being at Toronto's Word on the Street a lot, and the upside of not teaching at Banff next year is that I will be at the Toronto Word on the Street in 2007.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Spotlight: My Star Trek novel

Star Trek is 40 years old this month! In honor of that, this week's Monday Spotlight -- highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at -- is my aborted Star Trek novel Armada, begun in 1984 (when Star Trek was just 18 years old ... and I was just 24!).

The sample chapters are here, and the outline for the entire novel is here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Frankenstein vs. The Flying Squirrels

That's the title of a poem by my brother-in-law, David Livingstone Clink, in the October-November 2006 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, on sale now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm a busy man, folks ...

So far this month, I've been asked to:

* judge a contest -- results needed the following week

* write a newspaper piece about the 40th anniversary of STAR TREK -- deadline two days later

* write up answers to questions posed by a foreign publisher for an interview to coincide with the release of one of my books in that language -- responses needed in 48 hours

* agree to give a free public lecture on a specific date six weeks from now to help support a cause.

Sorry, folks. I had to say no to all of these. My schedule is packed with things that were booked many months in advance. I'm usually a soft touch to say yes, but the contest has known for many months that it'd need judges; the foreign publisher knew for many months that my book was about to come out; we've actually known for forty years now when the 40th anniversary of STAR TREK was going to be; and as you can see by glancing at my upcoming appearance calendar, I book most most appearances many months (and often over a year) in advance.

If you want something of me, please, please, please ask as early as you can. I want to say yes to you; I really do.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Cover Letters and SASEs

Well, the SF-publishing-related portion of the blogosphere is abuzz with the sad story of an author who decided to try a grass-roots campaign to get readers to email the Tor editor to which she'd made her novel submission, encouraging that editor (a very nice person) to buy her book. This, of course, was a very, very, very bad idea.

There's only one correct way to make a submission. My 1997 "On Writing" column on Cover Letters and SASEs, which is this week's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at, explains it.

Most important of all? The final line of the column, which says: "The only way in which you want to stand out from the crowd is by making a proper, professional-looking submission."

More from me on this in my Yahoo Groups! newsgroup.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm done with Rollback

Yes, I know, you thought I was done ages ago, when I finished final revisions on the manuscript. But there are many stages in bringing a book to market, and, for the author, the last one is going over the page proofs (advance printouts of the typesetting). Today, I finished going over those pages, looking at large-scale formatting issues and the fiddly bits dealing with a few equations. I've now turned the pages over to Carolyn for a final proofread; the next time I'll see the text is when the book is published in hardcover in April 2007 by Tor.

Calgary barbecue cancelled

The barbecue I discussed here has been cancelled, because the Saturday Calgary weather looks crappy. Says 2008 World Fantasy Convention chair Randy McCharles:

Winter has come early.
Well, at least fall has.

Mother Nature has chosen our BBQ weekend to have unseasonably cold weather. I've been watching the forecast all week and it has been getting worse each day. Sat. now looks at best to be cloudy and just above freezing, possibly with melting snow from Friday night. It is just as possible it will be raining or snowing Sat.

This will reduce attendance (and fundraising) and make the event less fun for those who do come out, so I've decide to postpone it. Possibly we'll have an indoor event in late November or early December.

A few of us will be at the park from 11:30 - 1:00 to let anyone who doesn't get the notice and shows up know what happened.
Ah, well.
On the bright side the weather gets back to normal by Tuesday.

"Sorry for the inconvenience" -- God (From Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quill and Quire on promoting books

Derek Weiler's editorial in the October issue of Quill & Quire, the Canadian publishing trade journal, is about the importance of authors taking a hand in the promotion of their own books, and it makes kind mention of yours truly:

If you're an author, doing what you can may involve courting the media or networking with booksellers. Many authors would no doubt rather simply be writing, and I sympathize with that position, but it's inescapable that for a book to make an impact on the world, it needs all the help it can get. Canadian science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer is a good example -- a savvy and likeable self-promoter in the very best sense of the word, he's cultivated a readership that almost any author would envy.

Traveling man ...

Over the next six weeks -- between now and the end of October 2006 -- I have to take these flight:

Toronto to Calgary
Calgary to Toronto
Toronto to Vancouver
Calgary to Regina
Regina to Montreal
Montreal to Toronto
Toronto to Vancouver
Vancouver to Calgary
Calgary to Denver
Denver to Toronto

Gak! It's a good thing I'm very good at getting writing done on airplanes!

Among the events requiring all this travel:

Teaching at Banff
The science-fiction convention V-Con
Giving a talk in Regina
Library readings in Montreal
The Surrey International Writers Festival
The science-fiction convention MileHiCon

It's going to be tiring and hectic -- but I just keep thinking of the air-miles I'll rack up! :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Neanderthals and Gliksins met

See this posting over at

If you don't know what Gliksins are, you haven't read enough Rob Sawyer ... ;)

All the boys love Mandy Lane ...

... and so do I.

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. Executive Producer is Keith Calder, who, as Variety reported, has optioned film rights to my Hugo-, Nebula-, and Aurora-Award-nominated novella "Identity Theft."

Carolyn and I didn't go to the first screening at the festival, which was appropriately at midnight, but we made it to the Monday afternoon screening, at the Royal Ontario Museum. This is an incredibly well-done teen horror film.

Although lots of comparisons come to mind, it reminded me of Carrie, although without the supernatural elements, in its oh-so-painfully-real portrayal of what its like to be an outsider in high school.

The dialog was wonderfully naturalistic (and, at the Q&A following the screening, when the host suggested it sounded ad libbed, director Jonathan Levine quite rightly turned to scriptwriter Jacob Forman and said that it had all been fully scripted -- nice to see the writer getting his due!).

A very fine review of the film is here.

The big news from the Festival is that the Weinstein Company just signed a multi-million dollar theatrical distribution deal for Mandy Lane -- one of the few big deals inked at the Toronto Festival this year, according to Variety. Congratulations, Keith!

(Pictured: Amber Heard as Mandy Lane)

Monday, September 11, 2006

We, not Neanderthals, are the oddballs

A press release from Washington University in St. Louis:

Modern humans, not Neandertals, may be evolution's 'odd man out'

Looking incorrectly at Neandertals

Could it be that in the great evolutionary "family tree," it is we Modern Humans, not the brow-ridged, large-nosed Neandertals, who are the odd uncle out?

New research published in the August, 2006 journal Current Anthropology by Neandertal and early modern human expert, Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that rather than the standard straight line from chimps to early humans to us with Neandertals off on a side graph, it's equally valid, perhaps more valid based on what the fossils tell us, that the straight line should be from the common ancestor to the Neandertals, and the Modern Humans should be the branch off that.

Trinkaus has spent years examining the fossil record and began to realize that maybe researchers have been looking at our ancient ancestors the wrong way.

Trinkaus combed through the fossil record, identifying traits which seemed to be genetic markers -- those not greatly influenced by environment, life ways and wear and tear. He was careful to examine traits that appear to be largely independent of each other to avoid redundancy.

"I wanted to see to what extent Neandertals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern humans are derived relative to the ancestral form," Trinkaus says. "What I came up with is that modern humans have about twice as many uniquely derived traits than do the Neandertals."

"In the broader sweep of human evolution," says Trinkaus, "the more unusual group is not Neandertals, whom we tend to look at as strange, weird and unusual, but it's us - Modern Humans. The more academic implication of this research is that we should not be trying to explain the Neandertals, which is what most people have tried to do, including myself, in the past. We wonder why Neandertals look unusual and we want to explain that. What I'm saying is that we've been asking the wrong questions."

The most unusual characteristics throughout human anatomy occur in Modern Humans, argues Trinkaus. "If we want to better understand human evolution, we should be asking why Modern Humans are so unusual, not why the Neandertals are divergent. Modern Humans, for example, are the only people who lack brow ridges. We are the only ones who have seriously shortened faces. We are the only ones with very reduced internal nasal cavities. We also have a number of detailed features of the limb skeleton that are unique.

"Every paleontologist will define the traits a little differently," Trinkaus admits. "If you really wanted to, you could make the case that Neandertals look stranger than we do. But if you are reasonably honest about it, I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to make Neandertals more derived than Modern Humans."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Press Kit

This week's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at, is my Press Kit.

Every published author should have a page like this one that gathers together the various bits of background that reporters and other media-types need when doing an interview with you. It's a lot easier than trying to email the stuff individually; just give 'em the appropriate URL, and they've got what they need.

(If you're less far along in your career, you'll have fewer things -- but the publication-quality author photo is a must, as is a brief bio.)

Sorry, I can't critique your manuscript

I get asked all the time if I'll look at people's manuscripts and offer an opinion. Another such request just showed up in my email box. Here's what I had to say:

I'm afraid the answer is no, for a couple of reasons. First, because my lawyer has advised me not to read unpublished manuscripts, except in very narrow circumstances, lest someday I publish something of my own that bears even a passing resemblance to something I've been shown, and the person who showed it to me decides to take legal action. It's just not worth the risk, he says, and he's probably right. :)

And second because people pay good money to have me critique manuscripts -- in July, I was writer-in-residence at the Odyssey workshop, this month I'm teaching SF writing at the Banff Centre in Alberta, and next month I start a two-month stint as Writer-in-Residence at the Kitchener (Ontario) Public Library. It's unfair to those people (the Odyssey students, the Banff students, and the Kitchener Public Library) who have paid me to critique manuscripts for me to also do freebies on the side -- and, no, I'm not looking for money from you; I've simply got way to many manuscripts to critique as is for those three gigs (at total of 50 between them) that I can't take on any more.

So -- sorry! But best of luck!

Favorite Star Trek episode

During this week of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, I've thinking about which one of the classic 79 episodes is my favorite. My choice has shifted over the years; the pacifist in me has long loved "Errand of Mercy" (with the Organians, and John Collicos as the first Klingon, Kor).

But I actually think the most beautiful writing the series ever saw was in Jerome Bixby's script for "Requiem for Methuselah" (the one with the thousands-of-years-old human named Flint, who had been Brahms, da Vinci, and a hundred other geniuses, and his quest to make the perfect android woman, Rayna).

It ends with this fabulous little soliloquy by Dr. Leonard McCoy. Captain Kirk has been totally heartbroken, and has fallen asleep, his head in his arms, on the work table in his quarters, while Spock and McCoy look on. Says McCoy (the "him" he refers to is Kirk):

You wouldn't understand that, would you, Spock? You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him, because you'll never know the things that love can drive a man to: the ecstasies, the miseries, the broken rules, the desperate chances, the glorious failures -- and the glorious victories. All of these things you'll never know simply because the word "love" isn't written into your book.


Site devoted to Star Trek communicators

As anyone who has been to my home and seen my small collection of replicas knows, I love the props from the classic Star Trek series -- and now there's a fabulous new site devoted to the communicators from that series, discussing in minute detail the differences between each of the ten communicator props originally made for the show.

If you're into this sort of thing like I am, you have to check out, which went live yesterday in honor of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek.

Friday, September 8, 2006

AdSense ads removed

I couldn't take seeing ads for PublishAmerica and other outfits I'd never in my life recommend showing up on my blog, so, as of this evening, the Google AdSense ads are gone from here.

I'm very interested in the issue of monetizing a writing career in the decades to come. If it ceases to be possible for most writers to make a living off of selling copies of books, because free digital versions undermine the print-copy revenue model, I'm curious about what other revenue streams might exist for writers; AdSense seemed like a possibility, but without way more control over who advertises, I'm not comfortable with it.

Ah, well. It was an interesting experiment.

Tesseracts 11 now open

Carolyn Clink and I edited Tesseracts 6 ... and now Tesseracts 11 is open:


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Tesseracts Eleven, the 2007 volume in the award-winning anthology of Canadian Speculative Fiction, is now open for submissions.

Editors for Tesseracts Eleven are: Cory Doctorow and Holly Phillips.

The Tesseracts anthology series is open to submissions in either English or French from Canadians, landed immigrants, long time residents, and expatriates. French stories will be translated into English for publication if accepted. Tesseracts is open to both short fiction and poetry. While the series has included stories as long as 7,500 words, preferred length is 5,500 words or less. Speculative fiction includes the genres of magic realism, science fiction, fantasy (this term incorporates dark fantasy and supernatural fiction), horror, and la fantastique. In all these areas, the editors prefer not to be presented with genre clichés reworked, but with original, well-written, well-crafted works of art. Send us your best!

The deadline for submissions is ­December 31, 2006.

Manuscripts must be typed double-spaced, 12-point type (preferably Times New Roman or Courier font) on quarto (8 1/2 x 11) or A4 (8 1/4 x 11 3/4) paper, minimum. Please include your name, ­address, telephone number and, where applicable, your fax number and e-mail address on the first page of the manuscript; with a brief identifier as a header or footer on each page as well.

Electronic submissions will be accepted, [] but must be followed by a hard copy. No faxes! Submissions will NOT be returned. Do NOT send originals. We cannot be responsible for submissions lost in transit. If you require acknowledgment of receipt of your manuscript, include a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Mailing address for ­anthology submissions:

Tesseracts Eleven
Attention: Series Editors
c/o Tesseracts Eleven Submissions,
P.O. Box 1714,
Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7

National Geographic online and SETI

I'm quoted extensively (but not till page two) in this article about SETI, over at National Geographic's website. Analog editor Stanley Schmidt is also quoted; the article is by Richard A. Lovett.

Rules for email

Folks, I'm just saying, don't start your email subject lines with "TOP SECRET!!!!" It looks like spam. I just missed out on the surprise 50th birthday party for my great friend Mark Askwith from Space: The Imagination Station because I didn't get the email invitation.

The invitation went out while I was at Worldcon, and I don't know for sure that it ended up in my spam trap, 'cause I wasn't looking that carefully at stuff while I was on the road, but ALL CAPS and strings of exclamation marks will cause trouble for lots of people's email filters.

(Email to my domain is mirrored to two separate mailboxes on other services; at this late date, there's no sign of the message, but the copy that was forwarded to me today did have a valid email address for me.)

I'm really, really bummed about missing this party, but at least let me say publicly what I didn't get to say privately: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARK!

(Pictured: Mark holding the mike; videographer Don Wright)

Lloyd Penney's LiveJournal

Well, it's nice to know people actually read my blog! I screwed up in the original version of this earlier blog post, and gave the wrong link for Lloyd Penney's LiveJournal, where you can read all his many wonderful letters of comment to SF fanzines. The correct link is Sorry, Lloyd!

LiveJournals you should know about

First up, there's my great friend Lloyd Penney (above), one of the most prolific letterhacks in science-fiction fandom. He's come thisclose to making the Hugo ballot for best fan writer several times and has won an Aurora Award. I suggested he start a LiveJournal so that all his LoCs (letters of comment) that normally appear scattered across dozens of fanzines could be seen in one place, and he has. You can read it here.

Second, Bakka-Phoenix Books, the world's oldest surviving SF specialty store, and a place I worked at back in 1982 (for, as I pointed out today to Chris Szego, the current manager and one of my favorite people, the princely wage of $4.25 an hour), has a LiveJournal community here. Chris and other members of the staff provide all sorts of fascinating comments not just about the goings-on at the store, but on what's way cool in SF books, movies, and TV.

Thursday, September 7, 2006 on Mindscan

This was drawn to my attention this evening: a nice review of my Mindscan at Blogcritics. org.

Cash flow ...

A life lesson for wannabe writers: it pays to have money in the bank. Because you know that check you're expecting? Money you're owed for work you've done? It can take an awfully long time to show up.

My editor at Tor accepted the final revisions on Rollback on Thursday, April 27. That act -- acceptance of the manuscript -- triggers a contractual payment for a major portion of the advance.

My agent just emailed me today to say that finally the check from Tor has shown up at his office (in the same city as Tor) ... 133 days, or 19 weeks, or four and a half months later. (And of course, I don't have the money yet ... my agent still has to process the check, take his commission off, and send me a new check for the remainder.)

Meanwhile -- and I'm not grousing, just observing -- it seems I spend half my time dealing with complaints from authors whose books I've bought for my imprint through Fitzhenry & Whiteside, the company that publishes my imprint, about the late issuing of contracts and advance checks by Fitzhenry ... so it's not just Tor; it's endemic throughout publishing. But, sheesh, what a way to try to make a living!

I guess people read Variety ...

Just got a congratulatory email from my friends Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens, who saw the Variety piece about my deal with Snoot Entertainment for "Identity Theft," and I see it's also written up here and here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Why I edit books ...

So, I sometimes get asked why I bother editing my own little line of books. After all, it's often frustrating, it's time-consuming, the pay is miniscule, and on and on.

But the answer is obvious to me when one of the new books arrives hot off the press. Today, I got my first copies of Terence M. Green's novel Sailing Time's Ocean, the latest release under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. And it's gorgeous. A beautiful package, a brilliant book -- and I brought it to market. It's very satisfying ... :)

Photos from the Mississauga Write-Off

Down below, in my blog entries from August 31, 2006, through September 4, 2006, I describe the first-ever Mississauga Write-Off, a writing retreat held at Carolyn and my place over the Labour Day long weekend, with these participants: Carolyn Clink, Al Katerinsky, Herb Kauderer, Val King, Randy McCharles, Robert J. Sawyer, Elizabeth Trenholm, and Hayden Trenholm.

It was very productive for us, and I thought I'd share a few photos:

Rob worked from his usual La-Z-Boy in his office.

Liz found a comfy couch in Carolyn's office ...

... while Val stretched out on a couch in our sunroom.

Randy scored the recliner in the living room ...

... and Herb did a lot of work out on the balcony.

Al preferred the kitchen table ...

... while Hayden took a little time off to read and enjoy a beer.

On Sunday night, we all gathered in the living room for readings.

Carolyn kept everything running smoothly all weekend long.

"Identity Theft" film option

From the Tuesday, September 5, 2006, edition of Variety, the Hollywood trade paper:

Snoot plans grand 'Theft'
A new 'Identity' for Calder

By Pamela McClintock

Keith Calder's frosh financing and production company, Snoot Entertainment, has bought the film rights to Robert J. Sawyer's acclaimed futuristic novella "Identity Theft."

Story revolves around a private eye working on Mars who is hired to find a beautiful woman's missing husband. Calder will produce with Snoot's Jessica Wu.

Project marks the first live-action feature for Snoot, which is in production on the CGI animated pic "Terra," voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox, David Cross, James Garner, Danny Glover, Rosanna Arquette, Ron Perlman and Danny Trejo.

Snoot intends to turn out two to three live-action pics a year and one animated pic every two years. Films, each costing up to $30 million, will be aimed at a broad aud.

Calder said Snoot is backed by a combination of private financing and outside equity investors.

In a move to make animated pics at a reduced cost, Snoot has teamed with visual effects company MeniThings. The two partners are in the process of creating a vfx studio for films, television, commercials and musicvids.

Other projects in development at Snoot include racially charged mystery "The Bone Orchard," thriller "Leave" and horror comedy "After Midnight."

Calder, who previously worked at Spyglass Entertainment and for Jeremy Thomas' London-based Recorded Pictures Co., also is a founding partner of Occupant Films. Calder launched Occupant with Felipe Marino and Joe Neurauter. Production company is debuting "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" at the Toronto Film Festival.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Mississauga Write-Off Day Four (evening)

And the first-ever Mississauga Write-Off is officially over. Herb and Al drove back to Buffalo around 5:00 p.m., and Randy and Val took Carolyn and me out to dinner this evening, then took a 9:00 p.m. flight back to Calgary.

Although the company for dinner was fabulous, I have to say the food was not. We went to a steakhouse near the airport, and my filet mignon arrived severely overdone (I'd ordered it medium-rare, and it came well done). I would have sent it back -- something I almost never do -- but we had time constraints, since we had to get Randy and Val to the airport in time for their flight. Ah, well -- at least I know one restaurant I don't ever have to eat at again. And, anyway, the conversation and the companionship were terrific.

My day wasn't as productive as I'd hoped -- rule number one for future Write-Offs: don't check email! -- but I went back to the keyboard after Carolyn and I got back from the airport, and did manage to finally finish my 2,000 words by just after midnight.

It was a very productive long weekend for all of us. In descending order, our word counts of new material:

Randy: 17,000
Val: 10,300
Herb: 9,000
Hayden: 8,700
Rob: 8,300
Al: 6,300
Liz: 5,300
Carolyn: 500 (but of poetry!)

Total: 65,400 words!

By the way, my fleet of laptops was put to good use: although Val, Herb, and Al brought their own computers (well, Al brought a borrowed one), Hayden, Liz, and Randy all used various laptops I had lying around the house (and Carolyn and I used our usual computers). For those who flew in, it was much easier for them not to have to lug computers here.

Everyone got along really well (Val and Randy had never met Herb and Al before), and eight people seemed like the perfect number: enough to keep the energy level high, but not so many that we were getting in each other's way, or on each other's nerves.

I'd very much like to do this again at some point; it was truly a wonderful, and very useful, event.

Anyway, Carolyn and I are both exhausted -- not just from the four consecutive late nights, but still from Worldcon last weekend, and all the travel before that -- so it's off to bed, with the telephone ringers turned down and no alarm clocks set ...

Monday, September 4, 2006

Monday spotlight: Rob's TV demo tape

I was too busy this past month with travel to provide regular Monday spotlights, highlighting documents on my website at, but I hope to get back to doing so each week ... and for this week, simply because I had to fix some broken code in it today, the spotlight is this guide to clips on my TV demo tape.

The names of the programs won't mean much to non-Canadians, and it's sad to see how many of these shows are now defunct (not, I hope, because they were foolish enough to put me on the air!), but it's a nice trip down memory lane; my demo tape was produced in 1999.

Sadly, I don't have rights to put the actual clips online.

And, look, I used to have (some) hair! :)

Mississauga Write-Off Day Four (afternoon)

Well, it's winding down. Hayden (who wrote 8,700 words this weekend) and Liz (5,300) have been deposited at the Toronto airport. Herb and Al are checked out of our condo's first-floor guest suite (but are still here). Herb is writing on the balcony, but the rest of us keep rushing out to join him, since all sorts of military jets keep flying overhead; they'd been part of an airshow this weekend here in Toronto. Weather is cool and gray, but otherwise all is well. But I've only gotten 700 words so far today, so -- back to it!

Google AdSense

Well, as those who read my blog directly at have doubtless noticed, I've been trying an experiment in having Google AdSense ads on my blog.

But I'm not sure I'm happy with the results: the ads seem to mostly be either from vanity publishers or authors of self-published books, or from fee-charging agents, and those aren't things I'd recommend to people. Most web users are savvy enough, I'm sure, to know that the mere presence of AdSense ads on a site doesn't constitute an endorsement of the goods or services offered by the advertisers by the owner of the site, but, still, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with them being here. Thoughts, anyone? (And, no, they're not generating much revenue.)

There's also an interesting twist to Google's license agreement: to avoid getting paid for clicks you yourself generate, you, as the site owner of a page displaying AdSense ads, have to agree to NOT click on them yourself -- so I'm not allowed to follow the ads to find out precisely what they're for; I'm having to guess about the actual products beings sold, in most cases. (Although the Science Fiction Book Club is one of the advertisers whose AdSense ad pops up in rotation here, and I fully support them, and am glad to have books published by them.)

Hmmm ....

Mississauga Write-Off Day Three (evening)

Today's food was a brunch at our place in the morning, followed by an early dinner at Emerald Chinese, one of Mississauga's best, and most authentic, Chinese restaurants (by the time our dinner was over, the place was reasonably packed, and we were the only non-Asians eating there). Liz and Hayden very kindly bought for everyone.

I got my 2,000 words done (total 6,000 so far for the Write-Off). At 8:00 p.m., we all did five-minute readings from what we'd been working on, which was great fun; the readings were fueled by Pillsbury chocolate-chip cookies.

After, we watched my favourite episode of the HBO TV series From the Earth to the Moon, which is "Galileo was Right." In it, David Clennon plays a geology professor who teaches a bunch of Right Stuff-style astronaut jocks how to be scientists; I've never seen any SF work do as good a job of conveying the excitement of scientific discovery.

We also watched an episode of a Corner Gas, a wonderful Canadian sitcom (three words that, until recently, could not be used in the same sentence), since our American friends hadn't ever seen it. We also watched parts of Silent Running, and Probe, the pilot film for the TV series Search.

And we had a fascinating discussion about the accessibility of modern science fiction, using these paragraphs, the opening of Chapter Two of Charles Stross's new novel Glasshouse, as a springboard:

Welcome to the Invisible Republic.

The Invisible Republic is one of the legacy polities that emerged from the splinters of the Republic of Is, in the wake of the series of censorship wars that raged five to ten gigaseconds ago. During the wars, the internetwork of longjump T-gates that wove the subnets of the hyperpower together was shattered, leaving behind sparsely connected nets, their borders filtered through firewalled assembler gates guarded by ferocious mercenaries. Incomers were subjected to forced disassembly and scanned for subversive attributes before being rebuilt and allowed across the frontiers. Battles raged across the airless cryogenic wastes that housed the longjump nodes carrying traffic between warring polities, while the redactive worms released by the Censor factions lurked in the firmware of every A-gate they could contaminate, their viral payload mercilessly deleting all knowledge of the underlying cause of the conflict from fleeing refugees as they passed through the gates.

Like almost all human polities since the Acceleration, the Republic of Is relied heavily on A-gates for manufacturing, routing, switching, filtering, and the other essentials of any network civilization. The ability of nanoassembler arrays to deconstruct and replicate artifacts and organisms from raw atomic feedstock made them virtually indispensable not merely for manufacturing and medical purposes, but for virtual transport (it's easier to simultaneously cram a hundred upload templates through a T-gate than a hundred physical bodies) and molecular firewalling. Even when war exposed them to subversion by the worms of censorship, nobody wanted to do without the A-gates to grow old and decrepit, or succumb to injury, seemed worse than the risk of memory corruption. The paranoid few who refused to pass through the verminous gates dropped away, dying of old age or cumulative accidental damage; meanwhile, those of us who still used them can no longer be certain of whatever it was that the worm payloads were designed to hide in the first place. Or even who the Censors were.

All in all, a wonderful, stimulating, productive, enjoyable (but fattening!) day.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Mississauga Write-Off Day Three (afternoon)

Progress has been slow for me today -- stayed up too late last night, plus I'm at the difficult stage in which I'm defining characters' voices; once I have those down, my pace tends to pick up.

It's still overcast here, but it's not raining today. Hayden has gone for a walk, Herb is now working out on my balcony, and I've got the door from my office to the balcony open to let in fresh air.

Well, back to work!

RJS Books event in Honeoye Falls, New York, Saturday, September 9, 2006

Nick DiChario, the author of A Small and Remarkable Life, which I published, is having a party -- come one, come all:


Robert J. Sawyer Books Publication Party
Saturday, September 9, 2006, 2 p.m.

Q & A Session and a Celebration of Noted Rochester SF Authors

Our own Nick DiChario, author of A Small and Remarkable Life -– official launch of his first novel!

Marcos Donnelly, author of Letters From the Flesh -– official launch of his paperback edition!

Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award winning author and editor of Robert J. Sawyer Books –- signing his award-winning novel Mindscan!

Join our guest authors for a Q & A session and their official publication event!
Coffee and light refreshments served. Books available for purchase. 2-4 p.m., Saturday, September 9. Free and open to the public.

The Write Book and Gift Shop, 19 North Main Street, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472.

Mississauga Write-Off Day Two (evening)

I got my 2,000 words by the end of the day. Dinner was here at our place: hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fried chicken, salad. Eight is a lot of people around our kitchen table, but miraculously nothing got spilled.

Evening included watching stuff on my 50" Sony Grand WEGA TV: the classic Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror," the fan-made Trek film "In Harm's Way," plus a bit of Saturday Night Live.

We're all having a blast, although Hayden and Liz ran out of steam early in the evening and went to bed; the rest of us are just retiring now (about 1:00 a.m. Toronto time). Tomorrow's our last full day ...

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Mississauga Write-Off Day Two (afternoon)

We're all back from lunch at Montana's, a roadhouse-style chain restaurant. It's a cold, rainy day here in Toronto, and the disadvantage of having a penthouse with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows is that if it's dreary outside, it can seem dreary inside. But I've put on a fire in the living room, and that's cheered the place up. Everyone is back at work, and being productive. I got 1,000 words before lunch, and intend to get another 1,000 this afternoon ...

Public domain golden-age SF ebooks for free

See here and here.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Mississauga Write-Off Day One

All went well. My personal goal was 2,000 words -- and I got 2,189. Most everyone else met their goals, too.

We went on mass to Swiss Chalet (Canadian barbecue chicken franchise) for lunch; dinner was pizza (from Pizza Nova, for those who know Toronto pizza chains). Lots of great work done, lots of great conversation. In the evening, everyone but Carolyn and me participated in a critiquing session for manuscripts by Hayden and Randy. (I'm critiqued out, having done 16 at Odyssey, and having eight to do for my Banff group this month, and then a couple of dozen to do while I'm writer in residence at the Kitchener Public Library this fall.)

Later in the evening, we all watched the just-released 20-minute Writers and Illustrators of the Future documentary, which features many winners and judges, including me. It's quite a nifty documentary, and really captures the excitement of the awards ceremony and the workshop associated with it.

We're all going to bed before midnight tonight. Looks like rain tomorrow; maybe I'll put on a fire in the fireplace ...

A sneak peek at Rollback

For a limited time, the Analog website has the first seven chapters of my next novel Rollback online. You can read them here.

Analog is serializing Rollback in four parts. At the end of the online sample, it says that the story will be concluded in the next issue; that's wrong -- it runs over four issues: October 2006 (now on newsstands), November 2006 (which subscribers are just now receiving), December 2006, and the January-February 2007 double issue. Also, the part online is only a portion of what's in the October issue, which actually contains the first 12 chapters.


Everyone has arrived

... for the Mississauga Write-off. Much food has already been eaten ("it's like locusts," said Carolyn); we've clearly underestimated how much we'll need.

We'd intended to go to bed earlier, but the conversation was too good. :) Now, at 1:30 p.m., we're calling it a night. Tomorrow, the writing begins!